What has to happen Monday for an NBA labor deal? A lot.

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Monday in Manhattan, NBA league officials and union leaders will again sit down across the table from each other in a posh hotel and try to hash out a deal — or at least go through the motions of it. If they don’t reach a handshake agreement today the league will cancel the first couple weeks of the NBA regular season.

So, what do the two sides have to do today to reach a deal?

A lot. Like a “make the Miami Dolphins a good football team” size effort. A “clean up corruption in the Mexico police force” kind of effort.

It’s a long shot, but here is what has to happen for the NBA to start.

1. Find a split on basketball related income. This is the elephant in the room and while the two sides met for five hours Sunday apparently this didn’t even come up. Which is ludicrous. The two sides can talk about the salary cap structure and luxury tax levels (apparently topics at the meeting Sunday) but all of that really ties back to BRI. Until the two sides define the pie and how to split the pie up, nothing else matters. Nothing.

When last we left this talk, the owners demanded a 50/50 split. The players got 57 percent of BRI in the last deal and have come down to 53 percent. That’s about $120 million apart on the first year of the deal and close to a billion over the life of the labor contract. Know that 53 percent is where the players are drawing their line in the sand, saying they have not gotten less than 53 percent in nearly three decades.

“We moved down from 57 to 53 (percent) and I think the owners got to work with us….” Kevin Durant said after the Drew/Goodman rematch Sunday night. “We’re going to stand firm no matter what. If we miss games we miss games. We might have to sacrifice a few for the betterment of the league, but I don’t think we’re going to give in just because we missed a few games.”

The NBA owners have already won these negotiations — that give back by the players represents $160 million a season and more than $1 billion over the course of a six-year labor deal — but the owners are now trying to pour it on and win by 50. They are pushing for a bigger cut of the pie and some are willing to miss a lot of games to get it.

2. Figure out revenue sharing by the owners. While this is technically an owners-only issue, it has tentacles into the negotiations. For example, the luxury tax big-spending teams pay is one part of the revenue sharing, so how much that is will impact the other revenue sharing. Zach Lowe has a fantastic post talking about this issue over at Sports Illustrated — revenue sharing and the luxury tax are an stumbling block right now.

This is not just the small market owners trying to get as much money as they can (although they are), this is also big market owners wanting more from the BRI split so the money they pay out in revenue sharing is new money and does not impact their profits.

3. Reach at least some level of understanding on the myriad of other issues in the CBA, such as if there is a mid-level exception, reworking the draft and the age limits on players entering the league. That stuff should fall into line once the money is figured out, but it still has to be in a place they can work it out.

That’s it for today. They can announce a handshake deal and have a joint press conference. Smiles everyone, smiles. Then they have to…

4. Turn the lawyers loose for a couple weeks to flesh out the details that will surround the framework of the deal. This would happen as the lockout ended — teams would open their facilities to players for workouts — but there could be no free agency period and training camps can’t formally open until the deal is finalized and approved.

5. Sell this deal to the owners and players. The hardliners on both sides will think they have given up too much and both David Stern and Billy Hunter will have to sell their constituencies on how this is a good deal. Most people on both sides want to get back to basketball, but there is going to have to be some salesmanship.

So that’s it. Five easy steps to basketball again.

‘Tired’ Jimmy Butler sits out All-Star Game at his own request

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LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler leads the NBA in minutes played per game at 37.3. He’s ninth in the league in total minutes played and played 77:35 minutes in the two games leading up to All-Star Weekend.

Butler was tired and asked Mike D’Antoni to give him some rest, according to both parties (despite speculation this was really a win for the Los Angeles nightlife). Butler did not play in Sunday’s All-Star Game.

“Rest,” Butler said when asked why he didn’t play. “I have to rest. I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

“He was tired and he just felt like his legs weren’t there,” Team Stephen head coach Mike D’Antoni. “He didn’t practice yesterday or play today. You have to respect that. He plays hard. Sometimes your body just needs a rest.”

Butler is having the kind of season that has him in the discussion for a place on the MVP ballot. He’s averaging 22.4 points per game with a very efficient true shooting percentage of 59.3, plus he’s playing strong defense. He and Karl-Anthony Towns have led the Timberwolves to a 36-25 record that has them as the current four seed in the West, poised to break an 11-year playoff drought for the franchise.

Still thankful, LeBron James breaks Michael Jordan’s record for years between All-Star MVPs

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Los Angeles – When LeBron James became the youngest-ever NBA All-Star MVP in 2006, he said during the trophy presentation: “I’d like to thank the fans for voting me in as a starter.”

Twelve years later, he sounds similar, maybe just a little more thoughtful: “It’s always been my fans who voted me in. For 14 straight years, my fans have voted me in as an All-Star starter, and it’s been up to me to go out and let them know and show them, listen, I appreciate that, and here’s what I’m going to give to you every time you vote me in.”

He plays similarly, too.

LeBron again won All-Star MVP, leading his team to a 148-145 victory Sunday. He finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

“Every night I step on the floor, I have to lead my guys or prove to myself that I’m still able to play at a high level,” said LeBron, 33. “I feel great.”

The 12-year gap between LeBron’s first and last All-Star MVP – he also won in 2008 – is the longest in NBA history. It tops the 10 years between Michael Jordan’s first (1988) and last (1998).

Here’s the difference between the first and last All-Star MVP for every multi-time winner:

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Players’ effort in this exhibition game comes and goes, but LeBron appeared invigorated .

When LeBron’s team trailed by 15 in the second quarter, he checked in and quickly led it back into the lead. When his team fell behind by 13 midway through the fourth quarter, he again led a spirited comeback. He hit the go-ahead bucket.

Despite playing a game-high 31 minutes, his intensity lasted all the way through the final buzzer.

His coach, the Raptors’ Dwane Casey, said he asked LeBron whether to foul or defend on the final possession while up three. LeBron said defend.

“If he says that, or any great players say that, you want to go with them because it was their idea, their belief, and he had it,” Casey said. “…He got the guys jacked up and juiced up as far as wanting to get a stop.”

LeBron and Kevin Durant swarmed Stephen Curry, who couldn’t shoot and could barely pass. Curry’s team didn’t even get a shot off:

“As you can hear in my voice, that tells how competitive it was,” LeBron said scratchily.

Again, his message echoed 2006: “We’re competitors, and our competitive nature kicked in and said let’s get some defensive stops.”

A lot will get made about the format change, and it might have mattered.

But maybe LeBron is just uniquely capable of dominating and embracing of this stage all these years later.

Defense? Dramatic finish? Team LeBron wins All-Star Game that’s worth watching

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LOS ANGELES — The NBA gambled its new format — with captains picking teams playground style — would produce an All-Star Game where the players showed some pride, played hard, and the showcase again would become something that resembled basketball (unlike last season).

It worked.

For proof guys were invested this time around, check out how Team LeBron responded to winning with a defensive stop, taking away Team Stephen’s attempt to get a clean look at a game-tying three in the closing seconds.

The THRILL of #NBAAllStar VICTORY!

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“It had a real game feel to it,” LeBron James said.

Team LeBron beat Team Stephen 148-145. LeBron was named MVP with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. He also hit the game-tying and go-ahead shot that got the win.

“I played with (LeBron) a few times,” Kyrie Irving said of the play and pass that set up that LeBron game-winner. “I cut back door, (Russell Westbrook) was driving, I saw the opportunity. I saw, before even Russ even passed to me, LeBron was going to circle to the rim, and he’s one of the best finishers at the rim.”

Most importantly, this was an All-Star Game with some defense — it had 81 fewer points than the layup line game last year, and the fewest points in five years. It also proved to be the closest game in six years.

“We wanted to kind of change the narrative of the All-Star Game being a joke,” Kevin Durant said. “Today we wanted to make it a real basketball game.”

There was more defense than last year from the start of the game — for example, LeBron blocked an alley-oop pass in the first quarter. Of course, “better than last year” was not a high bar to clear, but there was some effort to not just have a layup line. Most of the time.

Also to start the game, Anthony Davis came out wearing the “0” jersey of injured teammate DeMarcus Cousins (he switched back to his own #23 before the first half was over).

On the night, Team LeBron got 19 points out of Kevin Durant, 16 from Paul George, and 14 from Andre Drummond. Team Stephen was led by 21 from both DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard, and 19 points and eight rebounds from Joel Embiid in his first All-Star Game.

The fantastic ending made up for what was a laughable opening skit/national anthem before tip-off that did something very rare — it unified NBA Twitter. It was awful.

Now all anybody is talking about is the game itself. And that’s what the NBA wanted.

LeBron James hits go-ahead shot in All-Star win (video)

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LOS ANGELES – LeBron James‘ team trailed by 13 midway through the fourth quarter of the All-Star game, but he led a competitive comeback.

This shot put his team up 146-145 over Stephen Curry‘s team, and Team LeBron held on for a 148-145 win:

Great penetration by Russell Westbrook, and he and Kyrie Irving moved the ball well. LeBron made it count.